Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Iran acquittal in journalist murder upheld

Iran Focus:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An appeals court has upheld the acquittal of an Iranian secret agent in the killing a Canadian-Iranian journalist, whose death in detention two years ago led to a diplomatic row between Canada and Iran, defense counsel said Wednesday.

The court upheld the acquittal of Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, an interrogator with the Iranian intelligence ministry and the only suspect in the case, and ruled the death of Zahra Kazemi was not premeditated, said defense lawyer Qasem Shabani.

Kazemi, a Canadian photojournalist of Iranian origin, died in July 2003. She was arrested while taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during a student demonstration.

Canada has campaigned to determine the cause of death. Initially the authorities claimed Kazemi died of a stroke. But faced with international pressure, a committee appointed by then-President Mohammad Khatami found Kazemi died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage caused by a blow to the head.

Ahmadi was acquitted at his Iranian trial in July 2004, but the state appealed.

Lawyers representing Kazemi's relatives and other supporters, including Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel laureate, have repeatedly said they did not believe that Ahmadi was guilty. They maintain Kazemi was beaten to death by a hard-line prison official.

The Canadian government has blamed Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, who reported Kazemi died of a stroke, for the photojournalist's death. Iranian reformists accused Mortazavi of a cover-up; Mortazavi's office has denied the allegations.

``The appeal court has ordered the primary court to review the case to find out who was really behind the death,'' Shabani said.

Iran also rejected a Canadian demand for an international forensic team to examine the body, saying its judiciary is competent enough to carry out an investigation.


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